Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, I John, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace for October 13,2017

Standing in the quiet silence of the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral,  I saw the North Sea in the distance. The  wind and mist blew in my face and I fell into a trance of wonderment of what was. The Present broke in, though, by the distant sounds of children at play, the distinctive tweet of a teacher’s whistle, and the snap of a kicked soccer ball.

Jesus once told His disciples, as they stood in awe of the grandeur of the Temple, that there would come a day when not one stone would lie upon another. It was hard for the twelve to hear and others simply didn’t want to hear it, but Jesus knew that nothing in this world last forever. Nothing. New cities are built on long forgotten ruins. In these new cities couples fall in love, babies are born, children laugh and play with each new beginning calling us, no, inviting us, into an unknown Future.  Remember this: in the midst of ruins there are always new beginnings.

Jesus’ death was not the End. It was the precursor of  a New Beginning. And even now The Story–God’s Story–has not ended. The Resurrected One continues to call, guide and lead us into a Future that is known only to God. This Future did not frighten the writer of John’s first letter. It didn’t frighten him because he knew something that we often forget. He preached it to his dying day. “God is love…and perfect love casts out fear.” L(1 John 4:9&14) Let this be today’s glimpse of grace: be not afraid. We may not know what the future holds, but we do know in Whose Hands it is held.

Lord, give me the courage to commit my whole self, my very life and the lives of all whom I love, into Your loving hands. 

Christian, devotion, I John, Presbyterian Church (USA), Psalms, Uncategorized, United Church of Christ (UCC)

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for June 3, 2017

Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Psalm 23

Text: Ye, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… (v. 4, King James Version). Even though I walk through through the darkest valley (a number of more modern translations)

I received a text message from a friend who has had more than his share of problems. He has suffered just about every imaginable loss over the past year and a half or so; family, job, wealth, etc. Another hard knock came his way recently, one that would have have knocked him off balance at any other time, but it was the final straw. He felt like he was going to break.

“What have I done to cause God to do this to me?! Have I been so bad?!”

The cry of anguish in the soul.  I thought about how I would respond as we were in different states of the country. I wanted to choose my words carefully. I also wanted to pray and think about my response. Finally I wrote him saying that I’m not sure of many things but there are a couple things of which I am very sure. He did nothing wrong and God is not punishing him. That is not Who God is. God is love (I John 4:8).  Bad things happen because we live in a broken world. Secondly, remembering the words of the most beloved Psalm as well as the Cross of Jesus, I am convinced that God is with us in our pain and suffering, even if we cannot feel His Presence. God walks beside us in Life’s dark valleys, especially the dark valleys of the soul. And, in the words of Paul in his letter to the Romans, nothing in this world can ever separate us from God’s love.(Chapter 8) That God-love is unconditional. And it is transformative. Earlier in chapter 8 Paul wrote from his own life experience saying that while God does not cause evil, God can redeem evil and bring something good out of the ashes; not perfect, but good.

I don’t know if my response was what he needed. I have not heard back from my friend. But I do know that in my response I revealed not some pious jargon but the deepest  beliefs of my faith.

Maybe my words can be of comfort to you or someone you know.

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord. Be present and protect us through the hours
of the night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness. O Lord, drive far from us all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; Amen. (from The Book of Common Prayer, compline service)

Christian, faith, I John, Love, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for May 3, 2017

Devotional Reading: I John 5: 1-12

Text: For the love of God is this, that we obey His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (v.3)

Love is not an emotion or a feeling. Emotion and feeling are passion. Love is a decision; a willful decision that calls us to do a thing even when we do not feel like doing it. I remember a particularly low point in my life and reading Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. At some point in the book he said that if we do the loving thing even when we do not feel like it, we will begin to feel  loving. Feeling follows action, or, As James Allen wrote in his classic book As a Man Thinketh:  “As a man thinketh so he becometh.”

Love is hard. It is not doing the easy thing or, necessarily, the thing that the person wants you to do. It is doing the right thing. It means that you may have to say “No.” Love means being misunderstood or being unappreciated. It means that you do not always get the credit you deserve or want. It means that at times you will be misunderstood or even hated. But you do the loving thing anyway.

Jesus gave only one commandment in His life–that His disciples love one another as He loved them. It would be by this that others would know who He was and is.  His Way of love is not easy but neither is it burdensome. It is Truth and Life, real Life.

I believe that Love takes wisdom and thought and commitment. It is a decision, an action and a way of being. It is the only way to have a sense of fulfillment and purpose for it is the path to living a meaningful life.

Lord, give me the wisdom and courage to love with Your love. Amen.*

*You may also want to refer to a prayer attributed to the late Mother Teresa.


Christian, devotion, faith, Fear, Forgiveness, I John, Love, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for May 2, 2017

Devotional Reading: I John4: 7-21

Text; No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us. (v. 12)

I don’t read a lot of poetry but today’s devotional reading drew me to two poems in Gordon and Gladis DePree’s book of poetry, Faces of God (Westminster Press, c. 1974).

Recognizing the stranger/ As a face of God/ Takes so much of the suspicion and hostility/ Out of Life./ Perhaps I have never met you before…/But if I look at you with an open face,/ Accepting you as a valid person,/ With no need to judge/ Whether you conform to my standards or not,/ Will you really seem to be a stranger?/ Or will we have the vague feeling/ That we must have met somewhere before?’

Somehow viewing the stranger as a face of God/ Changes the other as well as me./ For if I have seen God in the other,/ How can he see less in himself?


When I think of myself/ And you/ As faces of God,/ Praying seems different …/ Should I still close my eyes/ And pray to somewhere,/ Or should we open our eyes/ And look at each other,/ Aware of our mutual life/ And the source of life beyond us both?

What would happen if we prayed about a problem,/ Looking at each other?/ If we prayed about a worry,/ Looking at each other?/ If we prayed about an anger,/ Looking at each other?

It is not as though we pray to each other,/ But how could I look into your face,/ A face of God,/ And be a hypocrite?

When the Old Testament patriarch, Jacob, decided that he had to return home and face the brother he wronged, he was afraid. But for once in his life he decided to trust the God’s Providential Care. He had a fitful night’s sleep, wrestling with a Stranger on the banks if the Jabok River.

The next day, when he met his brother Esau he was surprised to be met not with a sword but with unconditional love. Looking into Esau’s face he said, “To see your face is like seeing the Face of God.” (Genesis 33:10)

Our challenge today, and every day, is to see the face of God in the other for each one of us have been created in the Divine Image. When we learn to love the other, we learn what God’s love for us really is.

Lord, open my eyes that I may see Your reflection in everyone that I meet, even in the faces of those I wish to avoid. Amen.

Christian, devotion, faith, Holy Spirit, I John, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), Temptation, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for May 1 2017

Devotional Reading: I John 1: 3: 19-4:6

Text: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (v. 4:1)

Test the spirits. Not every one of my whims is God given. Nor is every idea divine. I need to test the spirits. When the writer of the letter we call I John gave this advice he knew how easily any of us can be led astray. As Robert Bellah wrote centuries later in Habits of the Heart, we can be fooled by the cultural and non-biblical myth that everything is a matter of personal opinion, belief and preference.

The early Church knew better. They believed that an individual found wholeness only within a greater community. Charismatic leaders can too easily lead us astray (Recall Hitler or do a Google search on Jim Jones, for an example).

There is a sure-fire threefold test that can be used to “test the spirits.”

First, ask if it is biblical. Is there overwhelming evidence of it in the bible’s story of faith.

Second is it God-glorifying as opposed to Self-glorifying. We can do all kinds of mental gymnastics to convince ourselves that what we are doing is really for God. So, maybe we need to ask ourselves, “If I never got the credit, would I still want to do it?” This takes a lot of serious honest soul searching. And, it isn’t foolproof because fools can be very ingenious in fooling themselves.

Third, does the larger community of faith that I am an active part of agree that it meets the first two standards; ie. biblical and God-glorifying?

In Infinite wisdom God decides to create us in the Divine image and make us stewards–responsible for God’s Creation. We are to care not only for all things of the earth but for every living thing for all of it belongs to God. And, we are to care for one another. Not every inkling is Heaven sent. We need to test the spirits.

Lord, give me a heart of wisdom and the courage to test the spirits lest I be tossed to and fro by the fickle winds of the world around men. Amen.


Christian, devotion, faith, I John, Presbyterian Church (USA), Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for April 26, 2017

Devotional Reading; I John 2: 12-17.

Text: Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love love the world: (v.15)

When I was in college I had an official U.S. Navy pea coat from the Great Lakes Navel Training Center. It was all wool and quite warm. I accidently left it in a laundromat for just a few minutes as I loaded my clothes into my car. When I returned, it was gone. I hope that whoever took it, needed it more than I did and found warmth and a measure of joy.

Over the years I longed for that pea coat. Finally, a few years ago My wife surprised me with another one; not an official U.S. Navy pea coat but a pea coat, none the less. I wore it for about three winters and grew tired of it. It just didn’t seem “right”. This is not the Viet Nam era. I am not a military veteran. Nor am I 18 any more. I realized that the coat’s attraction was that it was lost, and that I longed to recapture the memories of that bygone day. I took it to the cleaners and gave it to Goodwill, still in good shape.

In I John the writer warned against falling in love with the world. The things of this world are temporary. They can be lost or taken from us in an instant. the letter invites us to invest in things more permanent; love, generosity, relationships–with one another and with God. These are the real things of life. When we focus upon them, we find true purpose each day that we are graced with the privilege of being alive.

Lord, remind me that the things of this world may be attractive but that they are fleeting, puffs of smoke against the reality of eternity. Show me how to live for You and for Your glory. Amen.

Christian, devotion, I John, Presbyterian Church (USA), Rock Polisher, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Daily Devotion for April 25, 2017

Devotional Reading; I John 2: 1-11

Text: Anyone who claims to live in the light of God’s love but hates a brother or sister is still in darkness. (vs. 9)

When my father-in-law died I inherited his rock polisher; a rubber cylinder attached to a system of pulleys and a motor. It was a hobby that he took up in retirement. The way the rock polisher works is that you put selected stones into the polisher, add water and increasingly finer “grit” over a number of weeks, seal the stones in the polisher, turn it one and walk away. It takes time and patience but the finished product is a beautifully polished stone ready to be set in a tie clasp, necklace or bracelet.

I think that the community of Jesus followers–a congregation and the Church–are a lot like a rock polisher. When we commit to a certain fellowship we put ourselves in the mix of others rocks. Through the course of time and experience we begin to rub the rough edges off of one another, by the grace of God. Eventually we become polished stones that reflect the One in Whose Image we are made.

Our job, as a committed community of Jesus followers, is to learn to love one another, even the ones that we think have the roughest edges. Frankly, they probably think that we have some pretty rough edges, too.

Lord God, teach me how to love others just as you love me. Especially teach me how to love those who I do not like or trust. Help me to see that we are all a part of Your great family. Amen.

Christian, confession, devotion, I John, Prayer, Presbyterian Church (USA), sin, Uncategorized

Glimpses of Grace Devotion for April 24, 2017

Devotional Reading for the Day: I John 1: 1-10*

Text: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (v. 8)

In our weekly worship service we include a prayer called the Confession of Sin and an Assurance of Pardon or Forgiveness. The Confession of Sin is for the world as well as for ourselves. Like the ancient prophet Isaiah we live amongst a people and in a world with “unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5)

From time to time someone say that the “Confession of Sin” is depressing.  It’s something that we should not include in worship. I’ve never found it depressing but, rather an exercise in honesty and humility. And frankly, we could use a little more of each right now.

No one is perfect. If we think we are, those nearest and dearest to us can straighten us out on that count!  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) We participate in evil intentionally and unintentionally, through neglect as well as well-meaning but misguided attention. We can’t help it. We are broken people living in a broken world. And this brokenness is why Jesus came into the world; to extricate us from brokenness; our separation from one another as well as from God.

Health–spiritual and physical–being begins with honesty.

Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

Lord, forgive us our debts and our trespasses. Amen.

*I am sorely tempted to write a Glimpse on the Gospel lesson assigned for today in the Common Lectionary and may write an evening entry. But, I John is such a wonderful letter with so many practical teachings.